Yankees Hot Tub Time Machine

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It just gets better and better with the New York Yankees. They just signed Brian Roberts.

I wrote before (in my Ichiro Suzuki essay for the 100 greatest players) that this Yankees team would look awfully good … in 2006. But by essentially replacing Robinson Cano with Brian Roberts, they have — in a weird way — gotten even older. Roberts best year was probably 2005, which you will note is actually BEFORE 2006.

Here is the Yankees starting lineup … and what was probably each player’s best season:

C: Brian McCann (2006 with Atlanta): .333/.388/.572, 24 homers, 93 RBis.

1B: Mark Teixeira (2005 with Texas): .301/.379/.575, 43 homers, 144 RBIs, 112 runs, Gold Glove.

2B: Brian Roberts (2006 with Baltimore): .314/.387/.515, 45 doubles, 18 homers, 27 steals, 92 runs.

SS: Derek Jeter (1999 with Yankees): .349/.438/.552 with 24 homers, 102 RBIs, 134 runs, 219 hits.

3B: Alex Rodriguez: (2007 with Yankees): .314/.422/.645, 54 homers, 156 RBIs, 143 runs, 24 steals.

LF: Alfonso Soriano (2002 with Yankees): .300/.332/.547, 39 homers, 41 steals, 102 RBIs, 128 runs.

CF: Jacoby Ellsbury (2011 with Boston): .321/.376/.552, 32 homers, 105 RBis, 119 runs, 39 steals, Gold Glove.

RF: Ichiro Suzuki (2004 with Seattle): .372/.414/.455 with 262 hits, 101 runs, 36 steals, Gold Glove.

DH: Carlos Beltran 2006 with Mets): : ..275/.388/.594, 41 homers, 116 RBIs, 127 runs 18 steals, Gold Glove.

In case you’re wondering, that averages out to the year 2005. This team would have peaked in 2005, even if Ellsbury was playing for Lowell of the New York Penn League at the time.

And, don’t forget, this team still has Vernon Wells (best year probably 2003 — .317 with league leading 49 doubles, 215 hits and 373 total bases) and Brett Gardner (best year a more recent 2010 — .383 OBP, 97 runs).

Oh, if only the Yankees had a Hot Tub Time Machine — or the phone booth from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure — they could put together one of the greatest teams in baseball history. Heck, let’s say it, if they could have all nine of those players, in their prime, that would be the greatest team ever. You have (by performance) three SURE Hall of Famers (A-Rod, Jeter, Ichiro), a possible Hall of Famer (Beltran) and four All-Star superstars.

Instead, Tex is old and played just 15 games last year, Jeter is old and played in 17 games, A-Rod is old and with a pending suspension that would last more than a year, Ichiro is old and has not even managed a .300 average since 2010, Roberts is old and is hitting .231/.289/.344 the last three seasons. Soriano and Beltran are old too, though they still had something left last year. Even McCann and Ellsbury, who are like One Direction compared to this gang of Rolling Stones, will be 30 on Opening Day.

Michael Schur and I argue about the Yankees all the time. I believe this team is about to become an all-time fiasco … something that has been building for a few years now with these gigantic and back-loaded contracts that, sooner or later, come due. I look at this creaky team — and the fact the Yankees had to pay a huge luxury tax just to put it together — and see doom.

He does not. He believes that there is some sort of evil empire nectar that they give players when they arrive so that as bad as the Yankees may LOOK to outsiders, they will always find a way to win. Always. Ichiro will suddenly hit .350 again. Roberts will become a .300 hitter, Tex will win the Triple Crown. Whatever miracles have to happen, Michael believes, will happen. He has his points. Even last year, when just about every single thing that could go wrong for the Yankees did, the Yankees still won 85 games and were mild postseason contenders into September.

I guess we’ll find out. I don’t know, to me this team looks like one of those Steinbrenner specials when the aging corpses of Jesse Barfield and Claudell Washington and Jose Cruz and Steve Kemp and Mike Easler and Steve Sax and Andy Hawkins and Scott Sanderson and Pascual Perez were clanging around. But, hey, you know, some of those teams did win a bit. And when you put together a team of players who were, at least at one time, great players …

… you can’t tell me the Yankees aren’t looking into buying one of those hot tubs on Ebay.

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.